Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

With 2018 pretty much done and dusted for sneakers, we can now look back at 12 months of exceptionally strong releases, including highlights such as the continuation of Virgil Abloh and Nike’s “The Ten” series and adidas’ seven-shoe collaboration with Japanese anime Dragon Ball Z.

Here at Highsnobiety, we proclaimed Nike’s React Element 87 as our Sneaker of the Year, but everyone here in the office has their personal favorite release for one reason or another. That’s why we’ve reached out to a number of industry insiders, to get their view on what was the best sneaker of 2018.

While some releases were more hyped than others, there were plenty of hidden gems, as evidenced by some of the choices in this list. Unsurprisingly, the sneakers chosen range from on-trend, in-the-moment kicks to timeless classics, spanning a wide variety of brands.

So scroll on through to see which sneakers the likes of StockX’s Josh Luber, cyber-influencer Lil Miquela, stylist Aleali May, and other top industry insiders chose as their favorite kick of the year.

Julien Boudet, Bleu Mode


“My favorite sneaker of 2018 is the Nike Air VaporMax Plus, mostly because it’s a modern version of my favorite sneaker ever, the TN. I’m not really a fan of the original VaporMax, but I’ve always loved its sole. When they started using the VaporMax sole on different models, I thought it was brilliant because it’s a nice way to update classic models and make them look more contemporary. Another thing I loved about this sneaker is the colorways. They made a lot of very cool colors that are fun to match with your outfits.”

Santino LoConte, Reign founder and creative director


“There is no shoe more iconic than the Nike Air Force 1. I have been a fan since I was little, but I have always had an issue with the comfort of the general release model. With the inclusion of the foam insole and encapsulated air cushioning, John Elliott took an iconic shoe to another level from a wearability standpoint. The double layering details and die-cut Swoosh also updated the pattern with a more modern look and feel. For me, it’s easily the shoe of the year.”

J. Scott aka A$AP Snacks


“I like to have shoes I can just throw on. I usually wear the hell out of whatever shoe I have in rotation, but will have a crazy assortment of luxury socks. This year, I’ve had a solid run with the lime green adidas München Super SPZL, a good everyday shoe in a bright color. One night I danced for, like, four-plus hours straight in these.”

Bobby Wesley Williams, stylist


“The Nike Air Max 1/97 “Sean Wotherspoon” is definitely the flyest release this year. This is the only pair of kicks that I cherish because they still hold a great value of exclusivity.”

Marcus Paul, stylist

The Broken Arm / Salomon

“My favorite sneaker release of 2018 is The Broken Arm x Salomon S/Lab XT-4. The XT-4 is the perfect combination of a technical and trail-running shoe and has a fashion-forward dégradé colorway. This sneaker can be dressed up or dressed down. Sure to be a future classic!”

Federico Barassi, SSENSE senior director of menswear buying


“The black OFF-WHITE x Nike Air VaporMax model was my favorite of the year. They look so cool and I can’t believe how comfortable they are. I wear this sneaker all the time. The hype around this collaboration reminded me of my youth and how much excitement there was for the very first Air Jordan sneaker. I got the same feeling when I saw this collaboration, as did many others.”

Dan Freebairn, KickPosters


“For me, it has to be the adidas Yung-1. I’ve picked up almost every colorway so far. But if I had to choose one, it would be the “Cloud White.” I like things clean and simple, and love triple-white shoes, so they’ve been my most worn kicks since I got ’em. Easy to throw on with any ’fit, comfortable, and look sick!”

John McPheters, Stadium Goods CEO and co-founder


“Every other “important” shoe in 2018 had a style that walked ahead of the person wearing it, announcing its presence. But I appreciated the quiet Public School x Nike Air Force 1 High because it adapted to my needs. I liked that it was made of deconstructed Air Force 1 parts, which fit with PSNY’s collection of basketball gear created using leftover Nike fabric scraps. That subtle design twist, paired with premium leather, made it a rare sneaker I could wear with a suit as easily as I could with army pants. So I’m rewarding function and not just form this year.”

Josh Luber, StockX CEO and co-founder


“Just when it felt like LeBrons were over, they come in with the 15. The tech, the materials, the shape — all game-changing. But to use it as a canvas to showcase classic ’90s shoes was just genius, and the Nike LeBron 15 “Mowabb” was the best of the lot.”

Jake Metzger, Grailed director of marketing


“My favorite drop of 2018 was the OFF-WHITE x Nike Blazer Mid “Queen” made for Serena Williams. I’m not a huge sneaker collector, but I have been a big fan of Virgil Abloh’s work with Nike. I like how he evolved his initial Blazer offering — my favorite pair from “The Ten” — and this colorway is my favorite yet. I’m a big fan of the bright sole gradient and think it pairs very well with the more muted gray upper.”

Rajni Jacques, Teen Vogue fashion director


“This was the year of the bulky sneaker, but for me, the sleek Nike React Element 87 in sail/red cut through all the noise. The asymmetrical tongue and the see-through element on certain styles make these super modern. I love a sneaker that has many personalities, meaning whether dressed up or down, the Reacts pair well.”

Aljoscha Kondratiew, Solebox general manager


“There were so many special drops in 2018, so it’s tough to pick a favorite. But one that stood out for me was the Solebox x adidas Yung-1. The Yung-1 in general was my favorite adidas silhouette this year and getting the opportunity to create an exclusive colorway was one of my personal highlights of the year.”

Bernie Gross, Extra Butter co-founder and creative director


“My favorite sneaker of 2018 was the Dr. Woo x Converse Chuck 70. There’s lots of heat coming out of Converse these days, but this particular collab rung most true for me. The tearaway upper was just asking to be cut, ripped, stitched, and drawn. I love when a design allows further customization and personalization. It brought me back to my early days painting customs.”

Selma Kaci Sebbagh, creative consultant


“I’m usually not a fan of hybrid sneakers, but the Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97 is without a doubt my favorite sneaker of 2018. The combination of colors is just perfect to me, and velvet is definitely the fabric of 2018. The design is strong, but one of the things I love most is all the extra details and packaging that make the shoe so special.”

Francky Bendahan, Sneakerness Paris founder


“The Union x Nike Air Jordan 1 “Black Toe” is my favorite drop this year. It’s a timeless classic with a little twist when it comes to the details, material, laces, and box. To me, that makes a big difference.”

Aleali May, stylist


“The OFF-WHITE x Nike Air Jordan 1 white Paris edition. One time for the RSVP squad, dominating Paris, and Virgil being a pivotal person in bridging streetwear and high-end.”

Dennis Todisco, Founder of Outfitgrid


“How do you add to the legacy of an already legendary shoe without it being another colorway? Chris Gibbs and the guys at Jordan NRG figured it out by creating something new from something old. If you’re detailed-oriented, the Union x Nike Air Jordan 1 “Blue Toe” was your shoe of 2018: perfectly distressed “fuzzy” ankles, yellowed hues, jagged stitching, a thicker leather, exposed foam, and nubuck Swooshes. Even the lace detail is incredibly well thought out.”

Emily Oberg, Sporty & Rich


“Harmony has been one of my favorite brands since they first debuted in 2014. When they collaborated with ASICS on the GEL-Venture, it quickly became one of my favorite shoes. The Harmony x ASICS GEL-Venture 6 is simple, clean, and classic, and I can wear them with just about anything.”

Siobhan Bell, DJ


“My favorite release of the year is the Nike WMNS Air Jordan 1 “Satin Shattered Backboard” — although I still can’t find these in my size, this is the silhouette’s best colorway.”

Lil Miquela, digital influencer and model


Eytys Angel Suede are it for me. I love their chunky, ’90s-inspired silhouette, and the “dune” shade goes with almost anything. Plus, the sole is thick and rugged enough to make me feel like I can run, walk, fly, two-step, or even become one of those people in LA who hike solely for the sunset selfies. (No shame in that… I think.)”

Drew Hammell, Nike Stories


“Ever since the controversial 2011 release, sneakerheads around the globe have been clamoring for a Nike Air Jordan 11 “Concord” with higher-cut patent leather. Jordan Brand definitely delivered on the 2018 silhouette, adding an extra few millimeters of height for good measure. I’m betting this is the last time we’ll see a true retro silhouette of the “Concord” Jordan 11, as it’ll most likely return as a retooled “Protro” model next time around in five or six years.”

Steven Smith, YEEZY design executive


“The YEEZY Boost 700 Wave Runner “Muave” was a low-key release, super-comfortable, and featured a versatile colorway that is perfect for fall and winter apparel hookups. Plus it’s Kanye.”

Thom Scherdel, Browns senior menswear buyer


“YEEZY come, YEEZY go. An interesting year for Kanye West and the brand. Still the most captivating persona in modern culture, in my opinion, and it’s certainly been interesting seeing the “YEEZYs for everyone” campaign starting to roll out. The YEEZY Boost 700 V2 “Static” ticks all the boxes. Clean, white, and fresh as sneakers always should be. I’ll be wearing them while listening to Yandhi for Christmas.”

Damien Paul, MATCHESFASHION.COM head of menswear


“I’ve chosen the Salomon S/Lab Speedcross LTD as my favorite sneaker of the year, as it nods to several trends we’ve seen in menswear over the last 12 months. Firstly, the brand has a long history in technical innovation, falling more into performance rather than fashion, and we’ve seen a huge resurgence in specialist brands like Salomon. I also like that these are black. I see a lot of black sneakers now, which is a natural reaction against some of the brighter colors seen in fashion sneakers.”

Olga Karput, KM20 founder


“The Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Carla sneaker is perfect in all respects: thoughtful, functional, and comfy. My personal choice of the year. Being a fan of Raf Simons’ creative work and having a huge collection of his adidas sneakers, I couldn’t miss his latest release for Calvin. Highly approved.”

Vivian Frank, Yeezy Talk Worldwide


“The Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97 has to be my favorite release this year. It presented something new and totally different to the sneaker market. In addition, its impact was felt across the entire community. Also, they just look really great on feet.”

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Footwear Staff Writer

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